The sessions for Divide saw singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran exploring the possibilities of home recording for the first time, courtesy of engineer Joe Rubel.
Ed Sheeran has negotiated overnight success, difficult second albums, tabloid attention and burn-out to reach an unprecedented level of chart dominance. At the time of writing, all 16 tracks from his third album Divide are in the UK Top 20, occupying not only the entire Top Five but 14 out of the top 15 places.
Yet, says the engineer who was at Sheeran’s side throughout the tracking of Divide, “I think he’s just getting started.” And given that Sheeran was already a global superstar when recording began, it’s surprising to learn that he’s still discovering his voice in the studio.
“From the beginning, I wanted to instil confidence in him,” says Joe Rubel. “I wanted to let him know that anything he wanted to happen could happen. After I’d just met him, I said ‘If you want to record a song in the middle of your field, we can do that. If you want to go to the North Pole and record, we can do that too. You should be able to do whatever you want; there shouldn’t be any constraints on what you can do.’ But his favourite place to record is at home, in his own surroundings, and be comfortable. I remember when he walked into the studio for the first time, and after five minutes looking around he was like ‘This is all mine?’
“‘Yeah, man. You paid for it, it’s all yours!’
“‘Wicked. I’ve never had a studio before!’”
In fact, prior to the start of work on Divide, Ed Sheeran had never had any sort of recording setup at home. “He’d never had a pair of monitor speakers or anything. He was touring non-stop for five years, since before the first record — and then he took his year off, so he’d never had a studio before.” At the same time, Sheeran’s previous recording experiences had left him with a distaste for traditional...
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